What does DARPA stand for

If you’re a government contractor or you’re looking to get into this sector you’ve probably seen the name “DARPA” get thrown around. So what does DARPA stand for?

It’s an acronym for:

  • Defense
  • Advanced
  • Research
  • Projects
  • Agency

In this blog post, we’re going to explain what DARPA does and how you can find work with them as a contractor. We’re also going to go over SBIR/STTR opportunities for small businesses as well.

Designing the Future

Pretty much, DARPA is in charge of creating and developing all of tomorrow’s military technology. The agency was started (as ARPA) in 1958 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1. One of DARPA’s earliest accomplishments was launching the very first weather satellite.

Since then, they’ve been behind a lot of technological innovations. Here is just a few of them:

  • The Internet (ARPANET)
  • Drones
  • Robotic Prosthetics
  • Neurotechnology
  • Intelligent Virtual Assistant (the basis for Siri)
  • Transit Satellites (parents of modern GPS)
  • Self-driving Cars

Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot was developed for DARPA which helps solidify their unofficial title as the coolest United States federal agency (at least next to NASA). Now, let’s get into how you can find work with them.

Finding Opporutnities with DARPA

So now you can answer the question of “What does DARPA stand for” and you know their mission. As you may already notice, DARPA is quite different from other agencies. A lot of the things that they are looking for don’t exist yet or are just in their early stages. Here are the different types of solicitations that DARPA releases.

Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) and Research Announcements (RAs)

BAAs are the most common method for DARPA to broadcast their solicitations. They can be used to announce research interests, their criteria for selecting proposals, and soliciting the participation of qualifying offerors. You can find DARPA BAAs on FBO or grants.gov, but for sake of convenience, they are posted on DARPA’s opportunity page.

RAs are used when DARPA intends to award only grants or cooperative agreements. These will be posted on grants.gov. If you’re unfamiliar with cooperative agreements, they are just like grants but, there is more involvement between the private entity and the federal government.

Request for Proposals (RFPs)

Although not as common as BAAs and RAs, DARPA will still issue traditional RFPs. These types of opportunities will have the formal bidding process that government contractors are used to. An RFP is usually issued when the cost of a product or service is above the Simplified Acquisition Threshold. RFPs issued by DARPA can be found on FBO.


In 1982, congress established the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. Much like set-asides in mainstream federal procurement, the program was put in place to give small buisnesses a seat at the table in government research and development.

Then, 10 years later, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). This was meant to create a bridge of partnership between small business and research institutions. During the first two phases of an STTR opportunity, a small business will work closely with an established research institution.

Small Business Opportunities

SBIR and STTR opportunities aren’t just limited to DARPA. These programs are used through various departments including:

  • The Department of Commerce
  • The Department of Energy
  • The Department of Homeland Security
  • National Science Foundation
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission

You can find open, future, and past solicitations for SBIR and STTR at SBIR.gov.

Have any questions about working with DARPA?

Ask below and we’ll get back to you.

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